Part 5 of a 7 part series. View series intro and index.
When Jesus hung on the cross, he had enough breath to speak even though his skin was ripped from his bones and his face was so disfigured that we wouldn’t have been able to tell who he was. He had enough breath to speak despite the weight of his body hanging by two railroad spikes nailed into the most sensitive nerve centers in his body.
At the very end of his crucifixion, around 3 pm, he cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” That means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some have said that this means that God turned his back and couldn’t look at Jesus because of the sin he bore. The Bible, however, doesn’t say that’s why Jesus cried out these prophetic words.
We all know that Psalm 22 begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In those days, when a teacher quoted the first line of a particular passage of Scripture, his intention was to reference the whole section. We know this must be the case because verses 16-18 say, “They have pierce my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” This is exactly what happened to Jesus.
But that’s only three verses of the psalm. Toward the end of the chapter, David writes, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations” (vv. 27-28). Although God did in fact “turn his back” as Jesus drank the full cup of God’s wrath on the cross, that is not the main point. God turning his back on his Son led to something greater. Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, says, “Could it be that Jesus on the cross [when quoting Psalm 22:1] is saying, ‘Here we go. Here we go’?” In saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus is pointing to the whole Psalm, which ultimately points to God’s universal redemptive plan to save a people–a family–for himself. The point then is that this world-wide revolution of bringing all kinds of people to worship God is about to begin. It is only because Jesus took the wrath of God and died in our place as our substitute Savior that the nations–we Gentiles–will be welcome at God’s table.
Just a chapter later in Matthew 28:18-19, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” The promise to Abraham from Genesis 12 has arrived and the gospel is primed to be spread to all the families of the earth.